The Cars That Never Made It
The 1959 Cadillac Cyclone was clearly a design inspired by America’s fascination with jet aircraft, it was a dream car full of tricks.
One of the features was an autopilot system that not only regulated the speed but steered the car. Under the front was a sensor-bar that could follow a guide wire buried in the highway. Talk in those days was that all highways of the future would be equipped with such steering strips.
Another feature is a radar sensing device, located in the twin nose cones, which scans the road ahead, and electronically alerts the driver with an audible signal and a warning light if an object is in its path. Before impact, the system would automatically apply the brakes. No one associated with the car ever had the nerve to try out the system, so it's not known if it worked.
Several of the features on the Cyclone would have made it impractical for daily use, the main one being the plexiglass bubble-top. This one-piece canopy was vacuum silvered on the inside to reduce glare and heat, but the silver soon peeled off and was never replaced.
There were no windows to roll down, so small rectangular openings in the doors were provided to act as pass-throughs for road tolls. A sound system broadcast the voices of the car's occupants through speakers hidden in grilles on top of the front guards.
When the doors were opened, electric motors raised the canopy and the doors would move outwards three-inches then slid back smoothly along the quarter panels for easy entry or exit. Rain sensors would automatically raise the canopy as well.
The Cyclone was Harley Earl’s swansong, Earl's successor William Mitchell, had different tastes in design, which affected the Cyclone. He had the fins radically trimmed and the colour was changed from pearlescent white to silver. Taillights were another detail included in the redesign, they moved from the deeply concave rear panel to the round bumper pods, reminiscent of jet exhausts.
Powering Cyclone is a 325hp, 390 cu-in Cadillac V8 engine, the drive is sent to the two-speed differential allowing for six forward speeds via a Hydra-Matic automatic transmission.
The Cyclone is still owned by General Motors, and is currently on display at its Heritage Centre, occasionally it is taken out for public appearances where it continues to amaze the crowds, just as it did 61 years ago.